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11/19/2007 Archived Entry: "BASEBALL BENEATH THE LIVING ROOM LAMP"
A Reading List for Hot Stove Leaguers
by Bruce Baskin
One of the hardest things for baseball fans in North America is the off-season. Unless you live in states like Florida, California or Texas, winter can be a weeks-long slogfest with temperatures to match. Most of us have to keep it indoors, occasionally curling up with a good book in the living room.
Baseball fans are lucky to have a sport that inspires so much good writing about it. You don’t see the volume of writing about basketball, football or hockey that you do about baseball. Maybe it’s because we have so much time between pitches…who knows? What I want to do here is offer a list of books I think make for great reading about baseball while we wait for the snow to thaw, the sun to come out and Spring Training to begin.
This is not by any means a comprehensive list, and I wouldn’t even go so far as to call it a “Best Of” piece. It’s simply a list of twenty books recommended by someone who loves good writing and good stories as much as good baseball. I’ve read hundreds of baseball books, and the twenty I mention here are those I consider essential to my own personal collection:
BALL FOUR by Jim Bouton
(This is still the best sports diary ever…broke all conventions…Not for kids, but they’ll read it…Be warned)
THE BASEBALL ENCYCLOPEDIA by MacMillan Publishing
(The original is still the best…all the stats you need without all those pesky sabermetrics to decipher)
BASEBALL WHEN THE GRASS WAS REAL by Donald Honig
(Spiritual, chronological and entirely worthy follow-up to “The Glory of their Times”)
BILL JAMES’ HISTORICAL BASEBALL ABSTRACT by Bill James
(An entertaining book by a very engaging and opinionated writer…agree or not, you’ll learn some things)
COMPLETE ARMCHAIR BOOK OF BASEBALL ed. By John Thorn
(Superb collection of 61 great baseball writings by great writers…827 pages of pure reading heaven)
DIAMONDS: THE EVOLUTION OF THE BALLPARK by Michael Gershman
(Best of all the ballpark books…well-documented and written, with glorious black & white photos)
EARLY INNINGS: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF BASEBALL, 1825-1908 ed. By Dean A. Sullivan
(Text of early baseball news stories, contracts, letters, etc…History via contemporary documents)
GIRLS OF SUMMER by Lois Browne
(Best straight-up history of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League out there)
GLORY FADES AWAY by Jerry Lansche
(About pre-1900 World Series, this one does a great job capturing baseball in the 19th century)
THE GLORY OF THEIR TIMES by Lawrence Ritter
(Ritter stays out of the way and lets the early 20th century players talk…a landmark book of stark beauty)
GOOD ENOUGH TO DREAM by Roger Kahn
(Better than “The Boys of Summer,” a very human one-year story of a low minor league team Kahn owned)
GREEN DIAMONDS by Jay Acton & Nick Bakalar
(Ever wonder what owning a minor league team is like? This book will tell you: “It ain’t easy”)
ONLY THE BALL WAS WHITE by Robert Peterson
(The first full history of the Negro Leagues in 1970, and still the standard-bearer of the genre)
SADAHARU OH by Sadaharu Oh & David Falkner
(A truly remarkable book by a truly remarkable player and man…athletes just don’t talk like this)
THE SUMMER GAME by Roger Angell
(This is Angell’s first book, but you could pick any of them…the best pure baseball writer of our generation)
THE TOTAL BASEBALL GUIDE by David Pietrusza, Lloyd Johnson & Bob Carroll
(If you’re looking for anything in baseball, this well-written reference will at least point the way for you)
THE ULTIMATE BASEBALL BOOK edited by Daniel Okrent & Harris Lewine w/David Nemec
(As a combination of history, photos and great writing, this book is a must-have for baseball fans)
VOICES OF THE GREAT BLACK BASEBALL LEAGUES by John B. Holway
(“The Glory of their Times” meets the Negro Leagues, this may be the better book…you’ll be touched)
WHEN WOMEN PLAYED HARDBALL by Susan E. Johnson
(Best of all books on the AAGPBL…very personal with great player narratives, but not for all readers)
YOU GOTTA HAVE WA by Robert Whiting
(A latter-day version of “The Chrysanthemum and the Bat”...both are outstanding histories of Japanese baseball)
Replies: 2 comments
Thanks for the offer. My mailing address is:
PO Box 31
In return, I'll send you a comp signed copy of a 72-page history I wrote on the Seattle Rainiers of the Northwest League during the 1970's. The only way it'll end up on anybody's coffee table is if they need another coaster, but it's complete: Yearly wrap with stats and standings, team and individual records, a player register and some photos (along with an overall history).
Posted by Bruce Baskin @ 11/23/2007 01:09 PM EST
Thanks for the list - a good list, but there are so many others, I don't have to tell you. I wonder if you know about my book "God Is Alive and Playing Third Base for the Appleton Papaermakers"?
If you send me a mailing address I'll send you a signed copy - maybe I can make your next list.
For love of the game.
Posted by Max Blue @ 11/21/2007 07:01 AM EST